Homemade Vanilla Extract
To make homemade vanilla extract, you need just two ingredients: alcohol and vanilla beans, plus a few minutes of prep time. You do need a little patience while the flavor of the vanilla beans is extracted, which takes several weeks. But it’s all more than worth it when you end up with the tastiest, most incredible extract that’s perfect for use in your own kitchen or to give away as a thoughtful gift.
For standard vanilla extract, I recommend an inexpensive vodka, at least 70 proof. Cheaper is often better since there are no distinguishing flavors from the vodka, as can be the case with a pricier spirit. If you are sensitive to certain grain-based vodkas, I do recommend selecting a certified gluten-free vodka, like Tito’s.
The recommended ratio of vanilla beans to vodka that I have found works best is 1 quart vodka to ¼ pound of dry vanilla beans. This makes things very easy, as I divide this amount among four 8-ounce containers.
For quality of beans, I suggest 100% certified organic grade-1 extract vanilla beans. These are usually drier than normal vanilla beans, so they have a lower moisture content. Oftentimes, they aren’t the prettiest or most perfect beans and they may be broken or have splits. Because of that, they are usually much cheaper than regular whole vanilla beans.
With a decent quality vodka and organic extract grade vanilla beans, each 8-ounce jar tends to run less than $10. This can be made even cheaper with less expensive vodka. Either way, this still costs less than most organic vanilla extracts you buy at the store – and you can be sure that it is not only the highest quality and most tasty vanilla extract you’ll ever have, but you can rest easy knowing there are no extra additives and it’s 100% gluten-free!
How to Make Vanilla Extract
(Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Egg-free, Nut-free, Soy-free, Refined Sugar-free, Vegetarian, Vegan)
Makes 4 (8-ounce) bottles
4 (8-ounce) glass containers
¼ pound 100% certified organic grade-1 extract vanilla beans
1 quart certified gluten-free vodka
Evenly divide the vanilla beans amongst the containers you are using and pour the vodka over the top. Give the bottles a good shake.
Store covered in a cool, dark place for at least 4-6 weeks, shaking the bottles several times a week.
When your vanilla extract is ready to be used, strain out the vanilla beans and any residue, if you’d like. A strainer, cheesecloth, nut milk bag, or even a nylon stocking would all work just fine. If I’m giving the extract as a gift, I give it with the beans still in the bottle and with a date printed on the bottle for when it is ready to use.
The extract should be stored at room temperature and, like a fine wine, it will only get better the longer it sits.
- For fun flavor variations, try your favorite bourbon, rum, or brandy instead of vodka.
- For an alcohol-free vanilla extract, use vegetable glycerin instead of alcohol.
- Play with various vanilla beans such as Tahitian, Madagascar, Mexican, and more. Each type of bean has its own subtle flavor profile. I personally find Madagascar beans to be the best for homemade extract and you get the most bang for your buck!
- Buy your beans in bulk. Organic whole vanilla beans at the store can run upwards of $9.99 for a bean or two. Look on eBay, Amazon, and at bulk herb retailers.
- You can also make one large batch of vanilla extract at once in a 1-quart container. Simply strain the vanilla beans out and divide the extract amongst the containers after it is ready.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Beth Manos Brickey, a designer and yoga teacher, is also the recipe developer and photographer behind the gluten-free website Tasty Yummies (www.tasty-yummies.com). Beth’s real food recipes are simple, humble, and approachable for the novice in the kitchen, but exciting and adventurous enough for the seasoned home chef.